02/04/11 12:00 AM EST
Stand up with MLB on World Cancer Day
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Your odds of catching a ball at a Major League Baseball game: 1 in 563.
Your odds of being diagnosed with cancer in your lifetime: 1 in 2 men, 1 in 3 women.
If you don't like the odds, Stand Up To Cancer.
That is the universal message on this Friday, dedicated as World Cancer Day everywhere. Major League Baseball is asking all fans to join forces in sharing that link and spreading that message, so that billions of people come together to help Dream Team scientists eradicate a disease that continues to represent the largest single problem in our lifetime.
"Major League Baseball salutes the organizations that are working aggressively toward finding a cure for all cancers," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement issued on Friday. "As a melanoma survivor, I am proud that baseball celebrates causes that are vital to educating families in the prevention, detection and treatment of these diseases."
Said SU2C co-founder Sue Schwartz on the eve of this global event: "In the U.S. alone, one in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetimes. With statistics like that, every single one of use on this planet has a connection to cancer. This year, Stand Up To Cancer's World Cancer Day Facebook campaign is about the world standing together to say, 'We've all had enough. This is where the end of cancer begins.'"
If you have a Facebook page, "donate your status" and say who you stand for as you share that link. If you have a Twitter account, tweet that link and include both the #WorldCancerDay2011 hashtag and @SU2C. Sign the World Cancer Declaration to put the SU2C mission on the global political agenda, and consider a donation.
Go to MLB.com Stand Up Stadiums and dedicate a virtual seat, suite, base, pitcher's mound or home plate from your favorite ballpark in honor of a loved one. Your donation goes straight to SU2C. Launch a star as a donation. Getting involved is easy.
It is an ongoing part of the conversation on MLB.com, because (a) MLB is a founding sponsor of SU2C with $30 million committed to date, and (b) 73 million-plus fans can make a difference. MLB is pausing on this day to applaud the various partner organizations that are dedicated to fighting various forms of cancer. In addition to SU2C, they include:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Every Mothers Day since 2005, MLB and its licensing partners have teamed up with Komen to generate extensive national awareness about breast cancer through the use of pink bats and other equipment. The effort has resulted in once-in-a-lifetime on-field experiences for breast cancer survivors and raised more than $1 million in funds to support research through the Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer initiative.
Prostate Cancer Foundation. Each Fathers Day since 1997, MLB and PCF have worked together to increase awareness and early detection of prostate cancer while raising more than $38 million for prostate cancer research.
American Academy of Dermatology. Since 1999, MLB has been working with AAD to promote the Play Sun Smart initiative, which raises awareness about skin cancer prevention and detection to millions of baseball fans across the country.
SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation aimed at raising funds for collaborative research in the fight against cancer, brought together actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities to raise money for the cause in a primetime telethon last Sept. 10. During the event, Selig and his wife, Suzanne, were honored, as SU2C announced that its first Innovative Research Grant would be awarded in their name.
"It's an incredible event and incredible organization," Selig said at the event. "We're very proud to be here. Major League Baseball was one of the original sponsors of Stand Up To Cancer, and we have an ongoing four-year commitment. Of all the things we've done, I think this is the one I'm most proud of."
"We work day and night trying to look for the greatest therapies, raising money," said SU2C co-founder Rusty Robertson, "and I can tell you that if it wasn't for Commissioner Selig and his wife, Sue -- which we call the Nudge Around The World when she said, 'What are you waiting for, Buddy?' -- we wouldn't be here today."
"We can attack this devil named cancer and we can beat him, but we need money," added Dodgers legend and colon cancer survivor Don Newcombe, the only player to win a Cy Young, MVP and Rookie of the Year Award, speaking at the telethon. "A program like Stand Up to Cancer needs money, and that's why we're here doing what we're doing."
Stand Up To Cancer was founded on the principle that there is sufficient knowledge of the basic science of cancer and that technologies are now available to translate this knowledge into real advances in treatment and prevention. Scientists know how cancer begins, progresses and spreads; they are on the verge of life-saving discoveries but desperately need additional funding. The initiative is dedicated to generating those funds from the general public and corporate, foundation and individual donors.
"Major League Baseball fans can put us over the top," Robertson said. "The collaboration between the networks, the network anchors and the scientists was an historical goal, and we have succeeded in doing that. But the opportunity to work with the collaborative effort of 30 Major League Baseball teams ... is unprecedented."
The commitment goes far beyond a telethon, and World Cancer Day is another example of the collaboration to make change happen. Game 1 of the previous World Series was dedicated to SU2C. Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, who lost his son to cancer five years ago, was part of an MLB group that visited the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco on the day of the Giants-Rangers opener. A sellout crowd at AT&T Park and a captive global TV audience were educated about SU2C on the video scoreboard and over the FOX broadcast, as fans in unison stood up to cancer.
MLB and SU2C work together on multiple fronts on a daily basis, at the league office and club levels. The conversation is now ingrained into the baseball culture, through routine conference calls between MLB and clubs, and it will only spread in scope as more teams like the Padres have moved forward with their own SU2C initiatives. The "Stand Diego Padres" initiative included the signing of a large wall at PETCO Park. At the last World Series media day preceding Game 1 at AT&T Park, Giants and Rangers players all signed an SU2C wall, raising awareness and funding.
Naturally, cancer touches the lives of many Major League players themselves, either personally or through the diagnosis of someone close to them. Just consider what has happened to one of the best pitchers in the game today, Boston's Jon Lester.
At age 22, the Tacoma, Wash., native was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, and this is what he said in preparing for chemotherapy treatments:
"It's kind of one of those things you can't describe. [You're] 22 years old, you think you're just going in there for some back pain and you find out you have cancer. I mean, that's pretty shocking, you know, but we've got a positive outlook on it. It's very curable, very fightable, so go from there, take it one day at a time and just fight it the best you can."
Lester turned 27 last month. He overcame his cancer and returned to MLB excellence in less than a year. He helped the Red Sox win a World Series title in 2007 and pitched a no-hitter in '08. He won 19 games last season and has a combined 50 victories over the last three years. Lester is one of the shining examples of the power to overcome.
Baseball has the power to help spread the message, and on this day, that message is all around the world.
SU2C co-founder and cancer survivor Laura Ziskin, executive producer of the last telethon as well as producer of "Spider-Man" and other box-office hits, said MLB "was the first significant contributor to Stand Up with us, and they continue to be a lead donor for Stand Up To Cancer.
"That financial support has been crucial for SU2C. Equally important is what MLB has done to help us build a grassroots movement. By engaging fans, Major League Baseball gets the word out in a huge way that all Americans can support the researchers working to deliver new treatments quickly. They have helped enormously with our efforts to convey this key message: Each and every one of us has a role to play in ending cancer, and we are profoundly grateful for that."
Robertson said baseball fans should know that there are many ways they can continue to join MLB and SU2C in this promising pursuit.
"I just want to tell everybody that right now, we can only do so much; the rest of it comes from fans," Robertson said. "Can you imagine if 5 million people gave a dollar? Whatever we get pushes a Dream Team like the Pancreatic Dream Team people heard about from Dr. [Daniel] Von Hoff -- the one who said during the telethon, 'That's why we don't sleep.' We have so many others we need to fund. We have to continue to fund these guys, because we are giving more money to more scientists in focusing on our ultimate goal."